ENTEBBE- Even before the incumbent MP for Entebbe Municipality, Mr Muhammed Kawuma, officially declared that he would not seek re-election, almost half a dozen candidates had already made clear their intentions to vie for the seat.
The seat has attracted 13 candidates altogether. In the previous two elections, four candidates participated in the race that saw the incumbent, a Democratic Party (DP) member, win on both occasions.
His 2011 win was, however, annulled after his closest rival, Ms Patience Mubangizi, petitioned the High Court citing irregularities in the tallying of votes and failure to comply with the electoral laws.
Ms Mubangizi, who is running for the post for the second time, said the Electoral Commission was not able to collect and tally results of 18 out of the 74 polling stations in the municipality.
Mr Kawuma, however, trounced her in the subsequent by-election, garnering 13,728 votes against her 6,226 votes.
Entebbe has remained a DP stronghold for the last decade and its leadership swept 90 per cent of all the votes from the grass root positions to the parliamentary level in the 2011 election.
This time, the majority of the candidates are Independents with only three carrying the party flags.
The DP had fronted Mr Michael Kakembo ‘Mbwatekamwa’ to tussle it out with NRM’s Rosemary Tumusiime and the Forum for Democratic Change’s Alex Gitta Mulibanga. Competition is hottest among the trio and Ms Mubangizi.
The 10 Independent candidates include those that were defeated during the party primary elections.
They are Achilles Kiwanuka and Abubaker Walusimbi Mukasa both of who decided to contest as Independents from the DP following disagreements with other party members.
Mr Mukasa was considered ineligible to run going by the party rules on grounds that he had not been active in the party activities ever since he joined Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago’s pressure group, the Truth and Justice Forum (TJF).
Ms Mubangizi, Madinah Zalwango Madinah, John White Baleke, Charles Kirumira and Amon Muzoora - all belonging to the NRM party, decided to contest as Independents after losing in the primaries to party flag bearer, Ms Tumusiime, citing electoral malpractices during the primaries.
Others include Mr Michael Bali Hafi Kale, Arthur Senfuma and Ambrose Katuntu subscribing to presidential aspirant Amama Mbabazi’s Go Forward pressure group.
The army too, is a major determinant and their role cannot be underestimated considering their relatively large population in the town.
Mr Kakembo, the DP flag bearer, who was a former youth councillor, commands overwhelming support from the youth in the municipality. He will also rely on developmental projects that have been initiated by the party such as road construction.
He is presenting his candidature to the electorate with promises to handle challenges faced by the youth, women and residents.
“I am going to Parliament to lobby for funds so as to develop the infrastructure in and around Entebbe, to boost tourism and also lobby for better medical facilities and create jobs for people,” he says.
He also wants to revive the Technical Training Centre (TTC), which was at one time in the 1990s located at Kiwafu and later transferred to Lugonjo, but has been turned into a secondary school without any explanation.
“If the TTC was still there, the youth would at least get life skills that would help them get self-employment,” he says.
Mr Kakembo also highlights the need to improve the state of roads around Entebbe International Airport to create an emergency exit and construct better medical facilities in the municipality to handle emergencies since currently when a minor accident occurs, people are taken to Mulago hospital.
Forum for Democratic Change, the main Opposition party in Parliament, too enjoys some support in Entebbe though the party has not been vibrant here since the 2011 elections when Mr William Wilberforce Seryozi contested as its flag bearer in the MP race, lost and quit politics. The party has this time fielded Mr Gitta.
“He is one of the people’s favourite and they will vote him because of the popularity that his party presidential flag bearer, Dr Kizza Besigye enjoys in Entebbe,” says Mr John Sebalu, one of the residents of Entebbe.
Mr Gitta, a lawyer and a coach for a local football club, Express FC, will also be looking at the youth for support.
He vows to follow up on how money given to the municipality for developmental projects from the central government is utilised.
“I am going to Parliament to be a lobbyist for the people of Entebbe and negotiate deals for them where the unemployed youth will get jobs, standards of living will be improved and more medical facilities built,” Mr Gitta says.
The ruling party that has had an average support base for the past 10 years, has its candidate faced with a dilemma of as five of its members, who lost in the NRM primaries, have come back to contest in the elections as Independents.
The five candidates disputed the party primary election results that saw Ms Tumusiime win by 987 votes and was closely followed by Ms Zalwango Madinah with 821 votes in a race that had nine contestants.
They cited foul play and election malpractices. The group’s split from the party is likely to cost the flag bearer and the NRM party dearly, dampening the party’s hopes of grabbing the municipality after 10 years of DP rule.
At a recent NRM rally held at Banga-Nakiwogo, Ms Tumusiime promised to provide widows with legal support when elected into power, saying they often fall victims of family wrangles due to lack of representation in court.
She also promised to improve the lives of fishermen by providing better fishing nets and to lobby for more health workers to fill the man power gap in the newly renovated Entebbe Grade B Hospital.
“With all the facilities such as the airport, hotels and other centres, we should have a bigger status and we once asked for city status, but we were denied so those are some of the things I will follow up,” she said.
Ms Mubangizi, who is in the race for the second time after controversially losing the primary race in the NRM, is advocating for a minimum wage to protect workers from exploitation.
Ms Zalwango, the youngest aspirant in the race, says she is counting on youth for votes. “Age used to be a factor when I was still in NRM, but when we went out to campaign with other contestants, voters listened and noticed my capability to lead,” she says.
Ms Zalwango told Daily Monitor that she wants to advocate for the revamping of the education sector and to monitor health services.
Mr Katuntu emphasises empowering residents to create jobs, support women programmes, help youth get vocational skills and carry out medical outreach programmes.
He further stated that the funds will also be availed for helping the elderly and youth projects.